Browsing News Entries

Amid NY officials' legal threats, Christian adoption agency gets chance for appeal

New York City, N.Y., Nov 12, 2019 / 10:01 pm (CNA).- New Hope Family Services, a Christian non-profit, is defending its long-standing child placement program from New York state officials who say it must shut down if it does not place children with same-sex and unmarried couples.

It is appealing a U.S. district court’s dismissal of its lawsuit, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has temporarily halted action against the agency until its appeal can be heard.

“Every child deserves a permanent home with loving parents,” Roger Brooks, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group, said Nov. 5. “New Hope’s faith-based services do nothing to interfere with other adoption providers, but banishing it means fewer kids will find permanent homes, fewer adoptive parents will ever welcome their new child, and fewer birth parents will enjoy the exceptional support that New Hope has offered for decades.”

“We hope the court will permanently uphold New Hope’s ability to serve children and families according to the very beliefs that motivate its valuable services,” said Brooks, whose legal group is representing the agency.

New Hope Family Services said it has placed over 1,000 children in New York. It operates a pregnancy resource center and a foster placement agency. In accord with its beliefs, the agency only places children with married men and women.

Its lawsuit charged that New York state officials ordered the agency to change its child placement policy or submit a close-out plan.

State officials are “actively demanding that such ministries, including New Hope, violate their religious convictions and say things that they believe to be false — or shut their doors,” its lawsuit said. It objects that New York state has never changed adoption laws to require the placement of children with couples other than an adult husband and wife, Courthouse News Service reported in May.

According to the lawsuit, officials with the New York Office of Children and Family Services who made a site visit to the agency initially praised it for showing “a number of strengths in providing adoption services within the community.”

State officials later reviewed New Hope’s policy and procedures manual and allegedly singled out its policy on child placements. The officials described the policy as “discriminatory and impermissible.”

The attorneys said the agency refers couples it cannot serve to other providers and has received no formal complaints.

In May, U.S. District Judge Mae D’Agostino dismissed the agency’s lawsuit. She said Christian agencies are free to believe that unmarried or same-sex couples are unfit parents but cannot prohibit such couples from adopting without running afoul of laws barring discrimination, Courthouse News Service reported.

“While religious belief is always protected, religiously motivated conduct enjoys no special protections or exemptions from neutral, generally applied legal requirements,” she said.

While the agency argued that it faced discrimination based on its religious beliefs, the judge said the law was not discriminatory because it applied to any adoption service and did not single out the agency or Christian agencies.

“The fact that New Hope’s conduct springs from sincerely held and strongly felt religious beliefs does not imply that OCFS’s decision to regulate that conduct springs from antipathy to those beliefs,” she said.

She said the agency is not being forced to state that it approves of non-married or same-sex couples. The state agency “is not prohibiting New Hope’s ongoing ministry in any way or compelling it to change the message it wishes to convey.”

In the judge’s view, the New York adoption statute was not drafted to interfere with any agency’s religious expression.

However, New York state rules have already forced the adoption and foster services of Catholic Charities of Buffalo to close because the rules do not allow the agency to maintain its practice of only placing children in homes with a married mother and father. The agency had been providing such services almost since it began more than 90 years ago.

“Because Catholic Charities cannot simultaneously comply with state regulations and conform to the teaching of the Catholic Church on the nature of marriage, Catholic Charities will discontinue foster care and adoption services,” the agency said in August 2018.

Long-standing Catholic and other Christian child placement agencies have been forced to close due to new laws or policies that considered their practices discriminatory on the basis of sexual orientation. March 2006 marked the end of adoption services for Catholic Charities of Boston and the end of adoption services of Catholic Charities affiliates in Illinois came in November 2011.

In 2018, the city of Philadelphia stopped placing adoptive children with Catholic Social Services, only days after calling for 300 new families to adopt foster children. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to review the case in mid-November.

On Nov. 1 the Trump Administration announced a change to federal rules to preserve federal funding of faith-based adoption agencies, regardless of their views on same-sex marriage.

The Department of Health and Human Services said it would revise a 2016 rule that required federally-funded child welfare agencies to place children with same-sex couples.

Analysis: US bishops at odds over abortion and 'the Francis test'

Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2019 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- During the second day of the USCCB Fall General Assembly in Baltimore, divisions among the bishops bubbled briefly to the surface, with bishops exchanging sharp interventions on the “preeminence’ of abortion as a social concern.

 
The exchanges highlighted simmering tensions among the bishops, which have less to do with the centrality of abortion to the Church’s political engagement, and more to do with bishops contending to appear closer to the pope than their colleagues.

Cracks in the conference appeared as the bishops discussed amendments to a letter meant to accompany a series of videos aimed at helping Catholics engage with the American political process when Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago asked for a separate consideration of one of the amendments.
 
The cardinal suggested the insertion of a long paragraph into the text which would contextualize the Church’s position on life issues, and especially the teaching of Pope Francis.
 
The committee considering the amendments, led by the USCCB president-elect Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, agreed to include an abbreviated version of Cupich’s paragraph, including language insisting that the “firm and passionate” defense of the unborn should be matched with support for the “equally sacred” lives of the poor, inform, elderly, and marginalized.
 
Cupich argued that his proposed wording was necessary, even if it was longer, in order properly to represent the full concerns of the pope.
 
Speaking in support of Cupich, Bishop Robert McElroy told the assembly that he was specifically opposed to the letter’s retention of language calling abortion the “preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself.”
 
McElroy told the conference this language was “discordant with the pope’s teaching, if not inconsistent,” and implied that a failure to accept Cupich’s proposed language was tantamount to a breach with the Holy Father’s magisterium.
 
“It is not Catholic teaching that abortion is the preeminent issue that we face as a world in Catholic social teaching. It is not.”
 
McElroy’s intervention triggered murmurs on the conference floor, with several bishops visibly distressed.
 
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia responded to McElroy, saying that calling abortion the “preeminent priority” was not just correct but necessary, pointing out that in the current American political context it was the most pressing concern. Chaput went on firmly to reject McElroy’s implication that recognizing this reality was in any way a breach with the pope, or a failure to present or value his own magisterium.
 
“I’m certainly not against quoting the Holy Father’s full statement [as Cupich proposed],” Chaput said, “I think it’s a beautiful statement and I believe it.”
 
“But I am against anyone saying that our stating that [abortion] is preeminent is contrary to the teaching of the pope, because that isn’t true. It sets up an artificial battle between the bishops’ conference of the United States and the Holy Father which isn’t true.”
 
“I don’t like the argument Bishop McElroy used, because it isn’t true.”
 
In a rare break with etiquette, the bishops in the hall broke into applause in support of Chaput.

Pope Francis himself has repeatedly spoken out against abortion in the strongest possible terms, likening abortionists to “hitmen,” and comparing the practice to genocide “with white gloves.”
 
McElroy’s pointed suggestion that the U.S. bishops are out of step, even resistant, to the pope’s own teaching comes one week after the publication of a book which accused the American bishops of resisting the pope’s leadership in their efforts to pass stricter measures for bishops’ accountability last year. That book, Wounded Shepherd, drew a strong response from the USCCB, which last week said it “perpetuates an unfortunate and inaccurate myth that the Holy Father finds resistance among the leadership and staff of the U.S. bishops’ conference.”
 
As the bishops of the United States have been at pains to emphasize their closeness to the pope, many in Rome have noted the rise of a narrative in which Americans are cast as totems of opposition to Francis.
 
During a September trip to Africa, the pope casually remarked that “it is an honor that Americans are attacking me,” in response to a book which suggested that so-called conservative opposition to his teaching was organized by U.S. Catholics.
 
In his address at the opening of the USCCB assembly on Monday, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S. emphasized the importance of the pope’s priorities being reflected in American dioceses, and many U.S. bishops, including the USCCB leadership, are deeply sensitive to the impression that they are anything less than supportive of the pope and reject any suggestion of disloyalty. Many also saw McElroy’s intervention as harmful to the conference and even disingenuous.
 
“He wants us to think that to disagree with him – or [Cardinal] Cupich – is to disagree with the pope. It’s not true, but it works to undermine the conference leadership,” another bishop told CNA immediately following the vote. “It doesn’t serve communion among us, or with the pope. It’s about personalities and power.”
 
The final vote on the amendment declined to include Cupich’s longer text, with applause again breaking out when the result was announced, but several bishops approached CNA after the session concluded to express their concerns that the actual substance of the amendment had been obscured by McElroy’s pointed intervention.
 
“I had no problem with either [Cupich’s] longer version or [Gomez’s] preferred formulation,” one bishop told CNA. “But Bishop McElroy suggesting that by calling abortion what it is in our society we are against the pope is absurd.”
 
The bishop suggested to CNA that McElroy’s intervention “needlessly weaponized” the debate about the language of the letter.
 
During a press conference after the morning session, several bishops sought to smooth over the exchange between McElroy and Chaput, insisting that there was no contradiction between the bishops holding abortion to be the “preeminent” concern for the conscience of Catholics and the teachings of Pope Francis.
 
Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, who was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2016, said that “The short answer is that yes, abortion is the preeminent [concern] and the vote makes that obvious.”
 
Asked about McElroy’s characterization of his view, and that of the conference, that calling abortion the preeminent concern was either opposed to or discordant with the pope’s teaching, the cardinal suggested the McElroy was perhaps trying to make a different point.
 
“I think Bishop McElroy was warning against exclusive choices – either/or – or highlighting something to the point that other issues disappear. And I think, if I have understood his intention correctly, he was right.”
 
It is likely that McElroy’s intervention will be raised behind closed doors, when the bishops will gavel themselves into executive session. Behind closed doors, efforts to insist that the conference speaks and thinks with one mind are unlikely to continue long.
 
The increasingly serious challenge facing the large majority of U.S. bishops is how to deal with a small minority of their number who seem to be attempting to position themselves between the conference leadership and Rome, and appearing to drive a wedge between them and the pope at the same time.

US bishops approve updated seminary program, Hispanic ministry efforts

Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2019 / 04:32 pm (CNA).- The U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference on Tuesday passed several action items, including an update of seminary formation and an effort to catalyze the evangelization of Hispanic Catholics in the U.S.

Approval of the measures came as the bishops met for the second day of their annual fall meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, held from November 11-14.

The bishops approved a new edition of the Program of Priestly Formation, as well as a new translation of the Order of Christian Initiation for Adults and a new translation of Latin hymns for the Liturgy of the Hours.

The Program of Priestly Formation is the blueprint for the formation of seminarians in the U.S.; the sixth edition, which was approved on Tuesday, incorporated the Vatican’s 2016 document “The Gift of Priestly Vocation.”

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, said in a presentation on Monday that the updated program provides flexibility for dioceses, provinces and regions to adapt to individual circumstances of seminarians.

It focuses on benchmarks of priestly identity rather than “chronological time” in the advancement of a diocesan seminarian toward the priesthood, he said, by drawing from the concept of a “propaedeutic stage” of priestly formation that was called for in the 2016 Vatican document. This is a beginning stage with an emphasis on the study of philosophy, prayer, and discipleship.

Bishop Felipe de Jesus Estevez of St. Augustine, Florida, in floor discussions preceding the vote, said that in the last two years both he and Bishop Andrew Cozzens, auxiliary bishop of St. Paul, Minnesota, had been working as part of a larger group on a “deepening” of understanding of priestly celibacy in seminary formation.

This understanding of clerical celibacy, he said, is “based on an effective maturity” that is “both spousal and paternal.” Estevez said that he and Bishop Cozzens would be working to publish a book on this called “Spiritual Husbands, Spiritual Fathers.”

The bishops approved the new edition of the priestly formation program by a vote of 226-4 with three bishops abstaining.

Also on the agenda was a new, reportedly more user-friendly, translation of the Latin edition of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), under a more accurate title of “Order of Christian Initiation of Adults” (OCIA).

The bishops first voted to approve a translation of the Latin edition of the rite, followed by a second vote on the book in its final form, to be sent to Rome for approval.

A text for RCIA had been in use in the U.S. since 1988. The new translation was approved on Tuesday, by a vote of 217-3, with three abstaining.

The bishops also voted on a new translation of Latin hymns for the Liturgy of the Hours.

To provide a sample of the new hymns, a choir with members from The Catholic University of America and the Fellow of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) performed two of the new hymns for bishops at the fall meeting.

The bishops voted to approve the translation 205-5, with two abstaining.

The votes were followed by a discussion of the V Encuentro meeting of 2018, a national gathering of more than 3,000 Hispanic Catholic leaders in the U.S. The bishops discussed some of the results of the Encuentro as providing a blueprint for the future of the Church in the U.S., and how the conference needs to incorporate those results at the parish level.

More than a year after the close of the V Encuentro, the bishops voted on Tuesday to start the process of incorporating the meeting’s conclusions and findings into its strategic plan for 2021-2024.

Recently, a Pew Research report on religious identity in the U.S. found that Catholics no longer make up a majority among Hispanics. The percentage of Catholics among Hispanics fell by 10% over the last decade.

Bishop Nelson Perez of Cleveland, Ohio, said a statement from the conference in response to the V Encuentro should emphasize leadership development among Hispanic Catholics, as well as vocations to the priesthood or religious life, successful models of ministry, and a vision of the Church as a defender of social justice and human dignity.

Regarding the upcoming statement of the conference, Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Oregon, expressed his hope that the vision outlined in it would be “very practical” and not full of “platitudes and too generic.”

Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vermont said that bishops should produce a pastoral plan of evangelization rather than a statement that would simply be a “large document that just disappears on a shelf.”

Catholic education was a key topic for much of the discussion, as the cost of education was cited as a significant obstacle to the Church’s efforts to provide a nurturing environment for Hispanic Catholics at the parish level.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston emphasized a push for tax credits and school vouchers for Catholic schools, as well as more youth centers, after-school programs and weekend programs for Hispanic Catholic children to involve families in local parish life.

US bishops approve hymn translations for Liturgy of the Hours

Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2019 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- The Latin rite bishops of the US voted overwhelmingly Tuesday morning to approve the International Commission on English in the Liturgy gray book translation of the hymns of the Liturgy of the Hours.

The Nov. 12 vote was 204 in favor, and five against.

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville tweeted that "the translation of the Latin hymnody in the editio typica of the Liturgy of the Hours is a tremendous contribution to the liturgical heritage. The theological insight and aesthetic of the Latin hymns will have an English voice into the future; a work of theological transmission."

Before the vote, the Fall General Assembly was treated to a concert performance in which the hymn translations were sung for the bishops.

The choir, which was directed by Adam Bartlett of Denver, consisted of Fellowship of Catholic University Students missionaries who live in the Baltimore area, as well as music students from the Catholic University of America. The choir sang the opening verse of the hymns, and were then joined by the bishops.

Bartlett told CNA that the choir had only just met up and rehearsed Tuesday morning before performing before the bishops. He knew some of the singers through his work with FOCUS, and he has directed the choir that performed at the organization’s national conference for the past four years.

Before ICEL did this translation, the vast majority the hymns that were printed in the English edition of the Liturgy of the Hours were translations of those found in the editio typica.

"What's unique about this translation is that the hymns of the Latin typical edition are actually being translated, which didn't happen the first time around,” said Bartlett.

“So we have hymns from St. Ambrose, Gregory the Great, you know, all of the great hymn writers … that are being translated and also paired with chant tunes that come from our rich tradition. In addition, of course, to modern melodies that they can be sung with,” he added. He said these translations created “great utility” as they could be sung with different tunes.

Bartlett said he found the updated hymns to be “absolutely gorgeous” and “so rich with theological imagery.” He thinks that these hymns are going to “make a really remarkable contribution to the musical life of the Church.”

“These are our hymns as Catholics,” he said. “These are the ones that come from the liturgy itself, and are put in the place where they ought to be sung, which is the Liturgy of the Hours. But I think that's probably going to have an impact on the hymns that we sing at Mass as well."

Valeria Lamarra, a chorister who sang on Tuesday, got involved with the ICEL hymn project through her school’s campus ministry. She had never met anyone she performed with before Tuesday morning.

“We had half an hour to practice, before getting up in front of 200 bishops,” said Lamarra. “It feels like a huge victory that the changes passed.”

Bishop Barron on how to reach out to the 'nones'

Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2019 / 02:38 pm (CNA).- Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and chairman of the US bishop' committee on evangelization on Monday outlining five paths Church leaders should take to re-energize the religiously unaffiliated.

Barron’s Nov. 11 presentation was on the opening day of the USCCB’s Fall General Assembly, held in Baltimore. His presentation opened with a trailer for a new video that fully expands on how better to reach the religiously unaffiliated.

To better engage people who are not affiliated with any religion or who may be fallen-away Catholics, Barron said that the transcendentals – truth, goodness, and beauty – must be communicated to young people in order to pique their interest in religion. Barron presented five strategies and techniques that can be deployed in order to communicate these concepts to young people and the religiously unaffiliated.

These strategies highlight the Church’s teachings on justice, her beauty, her intellectualism, her missionary mission, as well as encouraging “creative use of the new media.”

Young people, said Barron, do not respond well to some of Catholicism’s teachings – particularly those on sex. What they do seem to appreciate, however, is the Church’s teachings on social justice. Barron suggested that it could be effective to lead with the Church’s teachings on social justice, referring to this as the “path of justice.”

“We have a very powerful tradition around doing the works of justice. And young people like that. They get it,” said Barron. He cited figures such as Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and St. Teresa of Calcutta as figures who have lived out Church teachings of social justice who should be held up as examples to the young people of today.

“We know this tradition. We should propagate it,” he said.

Barron said it was important to flex the beauty of the Church to young people, in what he called “Via Pulchritudinis,” or “The Way of Beauty.”

This beauty, said Barron, extends to more than just physical church buildings. There must also be beauty present in liturgies, as well as in things such as websites – where young people may first encounter their local parish. Barron stressed the importance of having a parish having a solid online presence, as well as engaging Catholic artists and writers and promoting their work.

“Beauty,” said Barron “is a great path to follow.”

Shifting gears to what he called the “intellectual path,” Barron was critical in how he believes the faith was currently being pitched to young people.

“We have to stop dumbing down the faith,” he said. He said there has been two generations of a “pastoral disaster” of bad formation, where key tenets of the faith were not effectively taught to young people.

This failure, said Barron, has led to people being unable to properly answer the tough questions that may be asked. When these questions go unanswered, said Barron, people may abandon faith altogether.

Despite what Barron called a “smart tradition” of Catholicism, he said it has not been properly articulated to young people through catechesis. He stressed the need for Catholic schools to better prepare their students so they are fully equipped to enter the next stage of life being able to properly defend the faith and answer those tough questions.

Next, Barron detailed his belief that it would be beneficial to “turn every parish into a missionary society,” to seek to better evangelize with young people and the religiously unaffiliated.

Barron said there must be “a dialogue with our priests and our people” regarding evangelization. He called for a change in mindset, and said that all parishes should be reaching out to the community with evangelization and mission work in mind. Parishes should “knock down the walls,” said Barron, and interact with the surrounding area.

“The young people aren’t going to come to us,” said Barron. “We have to go out to them.”

To properly execute these various techniques and strategies, Barron said priests, bishops, and parishes must embrace a “creative use of new media,” namely, social media platforms such as Reddit, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

Social media is the “prime tool” to reach the young people, said Barron. He noted that young people are easily reached through social media, which are platforms that did not exist even a decade ago. The Church needs to embrace social media, which are platforms that can easily and simply reach large amounts of people, in order to reach into the world of young people, said Barron.

“It’s a tool that we can and should use to reach out to this world,” said Barron. He said that social media has a “sticky” quality about it that can draw in a user to continue to consume content. He cited an example of someone who came to embrace Catholicism after finding Barron’s videos regarding Bob Dylan and religion, which led to the person watching more and more videos on the Church.

The Church, said Barron, must invest in this, as well as hire “really good people” to work on social media.

After all, said the bishop, “young people live” online, and they must be reached where they can be found.

“Now we want to get them to parishes,” he said, “but as a first step, I think that’s one way to do it.”

In USCCB debate, Chaput defends prioritizing fight against abortion

Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2019 / 01:20 pm (CNA).- The U.S. Catholic bishops approved a letter to supplement their voting document on Tuesday—but not without controversy during debate on the “preeminent priority” of abortion.

During discussion at the bishops’ annual fall meeting in Baltimore on a letter to accompany the bishops’ document on voting, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the bishops considered whether to include an entire paragraph from Pope Francis’ 2018 apostolic exhortation on holiness, Gaudete et Exsultate.

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego said that paragraph should be included to make clear that Pope Francis prioritizes other issues at the same level as abortion.

The U.S. bishops’ inclusion of the word “preeminent” before mention of abortion in another part of the letter, he said, “is a statement that I believe is at least discordant with the Pope’s teaching, if not inconsistent,” and one that “will be used to, in fact, undermine the point Pope Francis is making.”

“It is not Catholic teaching that abortion is the preeminent issue that we face in the world of Catholic social teaching. It is not,” McElroy said, adding that to teach otherwise would provide “a grave disservice” to the faithful.

After McElroy spoke, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas said, “I absolutely think ‘preeminent’ needs to stay.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia rose to say that he did not oppose the inclusion of the full statement of Pope Francis, but added that teaching that abortion is a “preeminent” issue is not contrary to the magisterium of Pope Francis.

“I am certainly not against quoting the Holy Father’s full statement, I think it’s a beautiful statement, I believe it,” he said.

“But I am against anyone stating that our stating it [abortion] is ‘preeminent’ is contrary to the teaching of the pope. That isn’t true. That sets up an artificial battle between the bishops’ conference of the United States and the Holy Father, which isn’t true,” Chaput said.

“I think it’s been a very clearly articulated opinion of the bishops’ conference for many years that pro-life is still the pre-eminent issue. It doesn’t mean the others aren’t equal in dignity,” he said.

Many bishops in the audience applauded after Chaput finished his statement.

The U.S. bishops on Tuesday met for the second day of their annual fall meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, held from November 11-14. The meeting agenda included the elections of a new conference president and vice president and six committee chairs.

On Tuesday morning, the bishops elected standing vice president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles as the conference’s first Hispanic president. Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit was elected as the vice president on the third ballot.

Later on Tuesday, the bishops voted to approve both a script for a short video on their voting document “Faithful Citizenship,” as well as a short letter to accompany the document, amendments to which were considered by the U.S. bishops’ Working Group on “Forming Consciences on Faithful Citizenship.”

Cardinal Blase Cupich had proposed an amendment to add the whole paragraph 101 from “Gaudete et Exsultate” into the letter.

The amendment had been accepted by the working committee with the changes that some, but not all, of the language of the paragraph would be included.

The reason the entire paragraph was not included was the need for brevity in the letter, Archbishop Gomez—the incoming president of the conference—later said, in the discussions on the language.

A footnote to the exhortation was included to draw attention to the Holy Father’s message, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco later said.

While the original discussion centered upon the inclusion of Cupich’s amendment, it triggered a debate over the inclusion of the word “preeminent” in mentioning abortion among other issues. Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, had successfully included an amendment inserting the word “preeminent” before the mention of the abortion in the letter, to recognize its special gravity when considered with other issues voters are considering.

Cupich said that Pope Francis, in his exhortation on holiness, “makes sure that we do not make one issue that a political party or a group puts forward to the point where we’re going to ignore all the rest.”

The pope’s warning against the coexistence of consumerism with poverty, for instance, was not included in the voting letter, Cupich said, and the entire paragraph should be included for that reason.

Bishop Frank Dewane, who led the working group on “Faithful Citizenship,” proposed a compromise to include more language recognizing those issues Pope Francis mentioned in his exhortation, but Cupich said that he wanted the entire paragraph included.

“This is the magisterial teaching of Pope Francis put in a very succinct way, and I think we can all benefit from it as we speak to our people about the issues,” Cupich said.

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego then made his intervention, with Strickland and Chaput responding.

The bishops then voted to keep the letter as is—without Cupich’s amendment to insert the entire paragraph into the text—with 143 members of the conference in support. Sixty-nine members voted in favor of Cupich’s motion, with four abstentions.

After that vote, the bishops voted on the final text of the letter, with 207 conference members voting in favor, 24 voting against, and five abstaining.

US bishops elect new committee leadership 

Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2019 / 09:50 am (CNA).- Members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) elected six new chairmen on Nov. 12 at their Fall General Assembly in Baltimore. The Board of Directors for Catholic Relief Services was also elected.

Bishop George Murry, S.J. of Youngstown, Ohio was elected chairman of the Committee on Religious Liberty after a tied vote against Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami. Per USCCB bylaws, in the event of a tie, the position goes to the older bishop. At nearly 71, Murry is nearly two years older than Wenski, who recently turned 69. Murry was thus declared the victor.

Unlike the other five chairs, Murry will immediately take the helm of the committee, as Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville had resigned from the position in July due to illness.

On Nov. 11, the first day of the assembly, Kurtz underwent surgery for bladder cancer. The following day, immediately before the elections, outgoing USCCB President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo informed the bishops that he had spoken to Kurtz and that he was out of surgery.

Prior to the election for the chairman of the religious liberty committee, the bishops agreed by a voice vote to limit the term of the incoming chairman to just one year, to finish Kurtz’s original term. This was done to avoid an imbalance of committee elections.

Murry is eligible to be elected to a full three-year term at next year’s Fall General Assembly.

Five other committees elected a new leader, who will assume the role of chairman at next year’s Fall General Assembly. Until then, they will be known as the chairman-elect of the committee.

Bishop James Johnston, Jr. of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, was elected as chairman-elect of the Committee on the Protection of Children and Young people, with a vote of 167 to 77. He defeated Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of the Diocese of Jefferson City.

Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee was elected as chairman-elect of the Committee on Canonical Affairs, defeating Bishop Mark Bartchak of Altoona-Johnstown by a vote of 144 to 97.

Next, Bishop David Talley of Memphis was elected as chairman-elect of the Committee on Ecumenism, besting Bishop Steven Lopes of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter by a vote of 123 to 114.

Bishop Andrew Cozzens, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, was elected as chairman-elect of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis. He defeated Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane by a vote of 151 to 88.

Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, Ill., was elected as chairman-elect of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, garnering 140 votes to Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento’s 101.

Following the election of USCCB committee leadership, three members of the Board of Directors for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) were elected from a slate of seven candidates. Bishop Gregory Mansour, a Maronite bishop of the Maronite Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn and outgoing chairman of the CRS, told the bishops that the board of directors should be diverse in both makeup and episcopal location of clergy.

Bishops who serve on the CRS board are requested to be open to traveling to countries served by CRS programs, said Mansour, and to develop relationships with clergy overseas.

Bishops Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, and Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock received the most votes and were elected to the board of directors.

 

Archbishops Gomez and Vigneron elected USCCB president and vice president

Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2019 / 09:13 am (CNA).- The bishops of the US have elected a new president and vice president to lead the USCCB for the next three years. On Tuesday morning, the second day of their fall general session, the bishops elected Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles as president and Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit as vice president of the conference.
 
As the votes were cast Nov. 12, Archbishop Gomez was serving as the USCCB vice president, and the bishops customarily elected the vice president to the presidency. From a slate of 10 candidates, Gomez was elected with 176 votes, more than double the number of the second-place candidate.
 
If Gomez’s election was a formality, the election of the vice president was more evenly contested. The bishops needed three rounds of voting to winnow down the nine remaining candidates.
 
Archbishop Vigneron led after the first ballot, with 77 votes but short of a majority. On the second round, that number rose to 106, with Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services the next placed candidate with 52 votes. The two archbishops were put forward in a run-off third ballot, in which Vigneron was elected, winning 151 out of 241 votes cast.
 
Gomez, 67, born in Monterrey, Mexico, and ordained a priest of Opus Dei in Spain, is the first Latino to lead the bishops’ conference. He is also the first immigrant at the conference helm.
 
Vigneron, a Michigan native, has led the Detroit archdiocese since 2009. He was ordained a priest for the archdiocese in 1975 and made an auxiliary bishop for Detroit in 1996. In 2003 he was named co-adjutor and later ordinary of the Diocese of Oakland.
 
Vigneron is widely considered to have provided steady leadership in Detroit during the recent sexual abuse crisis, even as the dioceses of the state face an ongoing Attorney General investigation. In April, he gave a speech in which he explained the importance of lay collaboration in the ministry of bishops as they govern their dioceses.
 
“In order to act well, I recognize that I am in need of what I might call ‘co-agents’--others who help me by thinking and acting along with me,” he said during a speech at the Catholic University of America.
 
"All the laity can continue to be engaged at the spiritual level, to realize that if there's going to be change in the Church, part of it has to be that we all pray for that to happen,” he said.
“The other thing is to continue to hold the pastors accountable, to urge us to do what we need to do to advance the purification of the Church and to support us as we're engaged in those challenges."
Seen as a moderate conservative, earlier this year he announced that archdiocesan sporting events and leagues would no longer play on Sundays to help encourage families to observe the day of rest.
 
Vigneron had been serving as the bishops’ conference secretary, and was elected to the vice presidency from a crowded field of candidates. Despite the long list of names on the ballot, the election was marked by the absence of any notably theologically progressive candidates.
 
One of the more thorny issues facing the newly elected leadership team will be how to deal with bishops, both active and retired, who face accusations of either negligence or abuse of office.
 
In June, the conference adopted a set of protocols on how diocesan bishops could limit the ministry of their retired or removed predecessors in the event that allegations came to light. Among those provisions was the option to “disinvite” emeritus bishops from attending future USCCB meetings.
 
Shortly before the November meeting, Bishop Mark Brennan of Wheeling-Charleston wrote to the outgoing conference president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, asking him to disinvite former Wheeling Bishop Michael Bransfield, who faces numerous allegations of misconduct, both financial and sexual.
 
During a Nov. 11 press conference, CNA asked Cardinal DiNardo if similar requests to bar retired bishops from attending conference meetings would be made public.
 
“Bishop Bransfield was the first [such case] that we had, and I did a consultation with the administrative board,” DiNardo told CNA. “Not a vote taking, but a good consultation, but [the president] is the one who makes the decision.”
 
With investigations open in several dioceses, including into serving diocesan bishops in the dioceses of Crookston and Buffalo, Archbishop Gomez is likely to face several similarly sensitive decisions in the coming year.
 
Gomez and Vigneron also take the helm of the conference ahead of the release of the Vatican’s widely anticipated report on former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. On Monday, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston updated the conference on the Vatican Secretariat of State’s progress on the investigation into McCarrick’s career rise through ecclesiastical ranks despite decades of alleged abuse.
 
O’Malley told the U.S. bishops that the Vatican process had uncovered “a much larger corpus of information than had been expected,” and that this had delayed the publication of a report.
 
A draft was now complete, O’Malley said, and was in the process of being translated and would be presented to Pope Francis in the near future. “The intention is to publish the Holy See’s response soon, if not before Christmas, soon in the New Year,” O’Malley said.
 
How that report is presented to and received by the faithful in the United States will likely be the most important part of the first year of the Gomez-Vigneron leadership.

‘I just wanted to be a priest’: Archbishop Gomez elected president of USCCB

Washington D.C., Nov 12, 2019 / 07:25 am (CNA).- When he became a priest four decades ago, Archbishop Jose Gomez did not expect that he would one day lead the largest archdiocese in the U.S., or the country’s bishops’ conference.

“I just wanted to be a priest,” Gomez told CNA with a laugh, speaking about his election.

“Somehow God wanted me to do what I am doing, and I’m just counting on the grace of God to be able to be faithful to what God is asking me to do.”

“And also on intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” he added, explaining that he has entrusted all of his ministry as a bishop to the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Gomez, 67, was elected Nov. 12 as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The archbishop, born in Monterrey, Mexico, and ordained a priest in Spain, is the first Latino to lead the bishops’ conference. He is also the first immigrant to head the conference.

His election is historic, but it was no surprise. Gomez became vice president of the conference, a central organizing body of almost 200 Catholic bishops with more than 300 employees, in 2016. The vice president is traditionally elected to the top job, so Gomez knew his election was likely.

But, he told CNA, the real surprise was becoming vice president three years ago.

“I was not expecting to be the president. Some people put my name forward for election as vice president [in 2016].”

“To my surprise I was elected vice president, then once you are the vice president, it is more likely that they elect you president. The whole process was a surprise to me, but I see that God is asking me to do it, and I just pray that with the grace of God I can do a good job.”

Gomez laughed, noting that he had never expected to become a Denver auxiliary bishop in in 2001, the Archbishop of San Antonio in 2004, or in 2010 head of the Los Angeles archdiocese, the largest local Church in the country.

The archbishop told CNA that his goal is to “try to live what I preach, and then, also, my ministry to the people — that’s the most important thing.”

His ministry, he said, includes serving “my brother bishops, priests, deacons, and also the lay faithful. Because really my vocation started with ministry to lay faithful.”

Gomez acknowledged that he spends a great deal of time on administrative responsibilities, and will have more of them as his term as president begins. But he said that even amid those responsibilities, and even while exercising them, he has time to build the pastoral relationships he finds so fulfilling.

“The fact that I am the Archbishop of Los Angeles gives me a beautiful opportunity to be with the people, because there are so many people active in the Church in Los Angeles. And also in the conference of bishops, really what’s its all about it serving the people, so I hope that I can have the opportunity to be with people, in events where people are, and that I can continue to be a pastor which is, I believe, my vocation.”

Gomez is the first bishop elected to lead the conference to be associated with Opus Dei, a Church group, founded in Spain and supported by Pope St. John Paul, that focuses on finding holiness in everyday life, and on the call to holiness of lay Catholics. The archbishop became affiliated with Opus Dei as a college student, and was a priest in the organization, formally called a personal prelature.

The archbishop’s vision of the Church, focused on collaboration and friendship between laity and clerics, and on the idea that everyone should be a saint, is informed by his experience in Opus Dei.

“The spirituality of Opus Dei,” he told CNA, “basically is to strive for holiness— personal sanctification — and ministry. Sharing our faith with everybody else.”

“Most of the members of Opus Dei are lay faithful living their lives and working and trying to share the faith and to be holy.”

“Everybody, starting with the pope and going through every single bishop, and priest, and deacon, we all are called to strive for holiness, with the universal call to holiness, provided to us by the Second Vatican Council, and also, as Pope Francis is insisting that we should be missionary disciples, so that means sharing our faith with everybody else,” he added.

Gomez told CNA that groups like Opus Dei, along with other Church movements like the NeoCatechumenal Way and Communion and Liberation that have gained popularity in recent decades, emphasize “the universal call to holiness making a reality in the life of the Church.”

“All of those different institutions that are promoting the vocation of the lay faithful are a blessing for the Church.”

“By the work of the Holy Spirit there have been in the universal Church many groups of people working as a movement just to bring the beauty of the Chirstian life to the presence of the lay faithful all over the world,” Gomez added, comparing Church movements to the diversity of ministries and apostolates in parishes, which he called “the center of Christian life in the United States.”

The archbishop said that in his own ministry as a bishop, he looks to the example of Pope St. John Paul II, and, that among American bishops, he has been influenced and inspired by a number of bishops.

“Obviously in the United States I had the blessing of working together with Archbishop Chaput because I was his auxiliary bishop, so he has been a wonderful example to me. But I have been influenced by many other bishops: Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza, Archbishop Patrick Flores, and then Cardinal William Levada, who just passed away, he was a good friend.”

Levada, Gomez told CNA, “asked me, when I was a young auxiliary bishop, to be a member of the doctrine committee of the USCCB. So that helped me to get to know the workings of the USCCB.”

Gomez takes the helm of the bishops’ conference in a difficult time.

The sexual scandals that emerged in June 2018, with revelations of abuse on the part of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, have preoccupied bishops and lay Catholics.

The ecclesiastical landscape has shifted too; the pontificate of Pope Francis is different in emphasis, tone, and style from those of his predecessors. Some U.S. bishops have been accused of resistance to Francis, and bishops have responded to his leadership in different ways.

“The reality of the bishops in the United States is that we all are faithful to Pope Francis,” Gomez told CNA.

“I think we all are united. There is some perception that we are not. But the reality— what I see— is that we are united in our ministry and in our Church.”

“Every pope brings some different aspects in the life of the Church that he, by the grace of God, believes are important. And we, the bishops of the United States, are trying to be more aware of what those things are, and try to make it happen in our ministry.”

Gomez acknowledged that Pope Francis’ leadership is not similar to that of his predecessors.

“I think it takes time for people to really understand the spirituality of Pope Francis.”

“I think there are many, many aspects that are different. They are cultural and spiritual; it’s the first time in the history of the Church that there is a pope from Latin America. And some of us, who have that experience, know that it is different from the culture in Europe, or in the United States, or in Asia,” Gomez said. 

“It’s also the first time there is a Jesuit who is the pope. So every religious community, and the diocesan priesthood, have different spiritualities.”

“So I think we the bishops of the United States, and I personally, are learning how to appreciate the different aspects of the spirituality and the culture of Pope Francis.”

Gomez added that “every bishop has his own spirituality, and his own ministry in the diocese, according to the needs of the people in the diocese,” he said, noting the difference in his experiences while serving in Denver, San Antonio, and Los Angeles.

“San Antonio was basically a community of two cultures: Hispanic culture and the Anglo-Saxon culture. Now in Los Angeles we have people from all over the world. So my ministry is different.”

“One thing Pope Francis insists a lot is to respect the cultures of people, different ways of worshipping. People in Peru, or in Mexico, or people from Vietnam have different ways of worshipping and living. So the Church in the United States is learning how to address the needs of people from around the world,” Gomez added.

As he begins his term as president, Gomez told CNA he hopes to help the Church “to really understand the cultural realities of the people in the United States. I think it’s important for all of us to be more open to that.”

“With immigrants, what I talk about is not assimilation, but integration: that they be integrated into the life of the United States and the life of the Church.”

As Gomez discussed the importance of understanding the diversity of cultures in the Church, he also emphasized the source of the Church’s unity.

“Obviously I have the same truths as we all have, the teachings of Jesus Christ, in the Catholic Church.”

Ukrainian archbishop: No amount of world progress can replace friendship

South Bend, Ind., Nov 12, 2019 / 02:48 am (CNA).- Are the times these days good or bad?

That depends, in part, on how one reads the times.

On the one hand, technological advances have brought illiteracy levels throughout the world from 90% to only 10%. Advances in science and medicine are allowing people to live longer and healthier lives.

“These are some of the good things that are happening. I think a lot of it is done out of friendship, out of good intention,” Archbishop Borys Gudziak, the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparch of Philadelphia, and the Metropolitan for the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the U.S., said November 7. Gudziak was one of the keynote speakers for the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture 21st annual fall conference, which this year had the theme: “I have called you friends.”

“I don't canonize our times and I don't canonize longevity, but we do appreciate these things,” he said.

“And yet the times are not so good,” Gudziak added.

“In fact, they're similar to...what it was in 1914 when the Western world was convinced that progress would lead us to great happiness. Then the massacres began. World wars. The genocides,” Gudziak said.

He noted that for all of our technological and social progress, Americans are lonelier, more depressed and more stressed than ever. In Pennsylvania, one of the states where he serves, the opioid crisis has left people sick, dying, lonely and without hope.

“It's important to focus on friendship because no amount of material, educational, technological, industrial welfare can compensate for the relationships that we are called to,” he said.

Gudziak said some of the most profound friendships he’s seen are those he witnessed in Soviet Russia before it fell, and those he continues to witness in countries controlled by communism, although these friendships are not easy or without cost.

“In all of these countries that were or continue to be communist, where millions of people were killed, where the system killed systematically, people over generations developed a reflex to put on a mask, put up a facade, build a wall because the outside world is dangerous,” Gudziak said.

Families are encouraged to inform authorities against each other in communist countries, “so people in the family don't say things, because you can't trust. It becomes like a radiation.”

“You can't taste it, has no smell, no color, but it mutates the genes. There's an extra fear chromosome. It's a reflex. You can't control it. Two billion people have an added obstacle to cultivate profound friendship.”

And yet it was in these oppressive conditions in Soviet Russia that the Ukrainian Catholic Church, while it lost many members, grew deep roots and bonds of friendship among those that remained.

“(T)he Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which had about 4 million members in 1939, with 3,000 priests, was totally - on a visible level - liquidated,” Gudziak said.

“In 1945-46 all the bishops were arrested, hundreds of priests with their families were deported to Siberia. The church was rendered illegal and it remained the biggest illegal church in the world for 43 years until 1989. And it was very reduced. By 1989 there were only 300 priests left,” he said.

“But what a community it was! Forged in that fire of persecution,” he added.

When he met the underground Church, Gudziak said everything was stripped to the bare minimum - bishops had jobs as ambulance drivers or coal workers, there were no schools or churches or official institutions of any kind. The bishops didn’t even know one another’s names, because it was too dangerous to tell someone your name in underground seminary.

“And yet they were profoundly friends of Christ, and it was an incredible, intense relationship of those in the underground,” Gudziak said.

“The friendship was not just kind of a nice thing, it cost profoundly to be a friend of Christ in an atheist totalitarian system,” he said. “It cost to pass down the faith to your children. But the fruits are amazing.”

The Ukranian Catholic Church now again has 3,000 priests, 5 million members and 800 seminarians.

The story of the Ukranian Catholic Church is important because “it's the story of the cross,” Gudziak told CNA in an interview.

“I think the story of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, its persecution, its underground life, its survival...it's not a philosophy, it's a story of human faithfulness to God...the faithfulness of concrete people to God and to each other.”

From the beginning of humanity, God has been teaching human beings about true friendship, Gudziak noted in his talk.

“From the scriptures we know from our faith, we experience that the Lord so yearns to make us his friends. Moses had a special privilege to see face-to-face. Abraham was called a friend. The value of friendship was modeled by David and Jonathan,” he said.

“Then, Jesus came to us. Our faith, our church, our theology, our civilization is based on this incredible gesture that God comes to be close, to convey his divinity. He sits next to us,” he said.

“What a God, what a Lord, and what is He conveying? He's conveying the divine life shared by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Friendship...motivates the Father to send his Son into (the world’s) grime, into our anxiety, our sin, the pitch blackness that we can create, into our hell, into our death, to create relationship, to create trust, intimacy, to establish an alliance.”

“Friendship,” he said, “is the school of the spiritual life which reflects the gift of relationship that we have, by virtue of being created in the image and likeness of God. God is triune. He's personal and there's relationship. We as persons are called to relationship. We're called to friendship.”

Besides his appointments in the U.S., Gudziak also serves as the president of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Ukraine. In striving to teach their students about true friendship, the university invites academics as well as students with disabilities into its classes and campus, he said.

“Not because they need us, because they need our social handout, but because the children of God with special needs have special gifts. They don't care where you got your Ph.D. or how many publications you have. They don't notice how rich or poor you are or, which title you carry,” he said.

“They have one basic question: Can you love?...There's no more important pedagogical question.”

In a world increasingly divided along political, religious and other ideological lines, Gudziak told CNA it is all the more important that Christians reflect on God’s friendship to us, and in turn our friendship with him and with others.

“I think ever since The Enlightenment, when we've really been focusing a lot on ideas, there's a tendency for ideas to become ideologies. And our consciousness in the Western world is very intellectualized, and our relationships can become abstract. They can be categorized according to different positions, world views, and they're in our head,” he said.

“If we look carefully at the Gospels and listen to Jesus, he doesn't speak about grand ideas. He talks about the Father, the Holy Spirit. He talks about relationships,” he added. “He talks about persons and interaction among persons, and he uses very personal, very concrete examples and stories to teach about life. He doesn't start from ideas and systems and ideologies and systems.”

In his talk at the conference, Gudziak noted that Jesus became friends with “very concrete people, Peter and John and Nathaniel. It's not an ideology, it's not a system. There weren't too many buildings there in Jesus's time, nor in Paul's or for 300 years.”

“So maybe if we lose the buildings and the endowments and the properties, maybe that's not the end of things, if we can recover or develop more profoundly our friendship.”